Replay Value: 8.1
Every year, it seems the competition between football video games is almost as intense as that between actual teams in the NFL. From late August all the way through September, message boards are inundated with threads on the subject; "Madden owns your mothers mother", or "NFL 2K3 rocks" are the type of statement you are likely to see on any gaming forum. However, over the past few years, one football series has been left behind. Neither noted as a quality game such as Madden or a dismal failure such as 989's Gameday, NFL Blitz has floated around in the background, seemingly destined for obscurity. In fact, there are several good reasons why NFL Blitz has been cast under the shadow of the bigger titles in the genre, such as its lack of options. However, more important is that last year's installment came out so late that the entire football season was over before it even hit shelves. Now, a little less than 6 months later, Midway is trying to prove that it learned from past mistakes, and is offering up NFL Blitz 2003 as proof.
NFL Blitz 2003 looks identical to the previous game. It does not feature any improvements in visuals, nor is it any smoother when it comes to animation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you own the 2002 copy of Blitz, in which case you are not going to any difference between the two. Either way, the backgrounds are nice and crisp, and quite detailed, and the players look fairly nice as well, with the same arcade style models the series has employed since 1998, with overly developed muscles seemingly mashed together to make players look as fierce as possible. The fact that the game looks and moves just like last year's game is no surprise either, since Blitz 2003 is coming out less than half a year after the previous game. The reason for this is obvious however- Midway wanted to get this game out while people still had football on the brain.
While NFL Blitz 2003 has not changed graphically, it has received some enhancements in terms of gameplay, such as the create-a-player option. This allows gamers to create their own player for use in competition, and they can be designed in almost any way imaginable. If you ever wanted to find out how well a giant hot dog can move when burdened with football pads, then NFL Blitz is the game for you. In fact, there are tons of outrageous character models to choose from. In addition to looks, you can customize your character in several areas by assigning points to different stats such as speed and strength. You can then raise these stats in several different ways, the most obvious being victory on the field. The "Impact Player" has also made a return this year, after being introduced in the previous game. The Impact Player is a computer controlled, extra character that can be used in several different ways. Basically, depending on the play call, the impact player can be another pass rusher, another pass blocker, an extra defensive back, etc. How you call plays and use your impact player is a rather big aspect of the game, because they can literally make or break every play. However, breaking big plays is not as easy as it was a year ago. Midway has seriously bumped up the defensive AI in this game, making it a lot harder to get away with sloppy passes and poorly designed running plays.
Either way, NFL Blitz has always been, at heart, a multiplayer game. Unlike Madden or 2K3, the focus in NFL Blitz is hard core, fast paced, in your face action, and games like that are games enjoyed best with friends. Nothing is sweeter than using the new instant replay option to prolong that feeling when you break a huge play on your best friend.
It is also that type of multiplayer fun that makes NFL Blitz 2003 such a value, because it gives you and your friends more than enough bang for your buck. Whether renting or buying this game, players are sure to feel that they got their money's worth, simply because Midway packs so much action into one short simulated game, that you'll always feel like going back for one more round. The reason for this feeling is that NFL Blitz 2003 provides what the series has since its inception- fast paced action. Blitz plays so much faster and harder than other football games that comparisons are hard to come by, and that makes Blitz both unique and worthwhile.
However, some things should not be brought back year after year, and in NFL Blitz 2003, one of those things is the sound. There really is no difference between the 2002 and 2003 installments- they even have the same bland 2-man commentary that has been abused by so many other franchises. With such drastic differences in almost all other aspects of the game, one wonders why Midway would stick with such a pedestrian method of conveying the action. As for the sound effects in the game, there is not a lot that can be said since they are pretty much the same exact sounds heard in the franchise since 1998. If anything is to be said about them, it is that the sound is getting stale, and hopefully this is something Midway fixes next year.
What NFL Blitz all comes down to, however, is gameplay. Sure, the sound may be bland, and there may not be as many options as the other franchises out there, but Blitz has it where it counts. The gameplay is fast and furious, but most important, easy to learn and easy to play. The controls are quite smooth, and moving your players around the field is incredibly easy, especially compared to the Madden series. The analog sticks feel just a tad more responsive when playing Blitz, and that certainly helps in a game this hectic.
Overall, if you are looking for a football game that offers in depth simulation of the game that is real to life, then NFL Blitz 2003 is not for you. If you own last year's copy of NFL Blitz, then 2003 is probably not for you either. However, if you are looking for some fun, simple, and seriously hardcore arcade football action, then there isn't a game out there that can stand up to NFL Blitz 2003.